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Snow Owl July 2003


All eagle-owls are of a buff to yellow-orange ground color streaked with dark brown and sometimes mottled with white. There are medium to large "ear" tufts, facial half-discs which are finely penciled, and a white throat patch. The tarsi and toes are well feathered. [The visible bend in a bird's leg being its ankle, the portion of the leg just above the toes corresponds to the bottoms of our feet, our tarsals and metatarsals.] The claws and beak are black and the eyes are orange in the Eurasian Eagle-Owl (yellow in the great horned owl).

Perhaps the world’s smallest owl. Elf Owls have rounded heads, a greenish/yellow bill, yellow eyes, and distinctive white eyebrows. Ventrally, they are grayish with gray to cinnamon-brown vertical streaks. Dorsally they are grayish/brown with buff mottling. There are two distinct rows of white scapular and wing covert spots. The tail is short.

In North America the golden eagle occurs as far south as Mexico , but it is most common in the mountainous areas of the western United States and Canada ; east of the Mississippi it is relatively rare. Females attain a length of about 1 m (about 3 ft) from the tip of the beak to the tip of the tail, and have a wingspread of about 2 m (about 7 ft). Males are smaller, as is true for most of the birds of prey. A characteristic of the genus is the feathering of the legs down to the toes; in other eagles the lower part of the leg is bare and scaled, as in most birds. The body plumage is dark brown, with a distinct golden wash over the back of the head and neck, giving the species its name. The tail of adults is brown with several indistinct pale bands; that of immature birds is white with a dark brown terminal band.

Great Horned Owl, common name for the only American representative of a group of 18 large owls collectively called eagle owls. It is found on the mainland from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego . As in many other owls, females are substantially larger than males. In the large eastern United States subspecies, males weigh from 1 to 1.6 kg (2.2 to 3.5 lb), whereas females weigh from 1.4 to 2.5 kg (3 to 5.5 lb).


One of the World's largest Owls, the Great Gray Owl is dark grey overall interspersed with bars and flecks of light grey and white. When perched, they appear very bulky because of their dense, fluffy plumage, long wings extending past the body, a relatively long tail, and a large head. The size of the head, and the prominent facial disk make the yellow eyes appear small. A noticeable white "moustache" strip is under the facial disk, broken by a black "bow-tie". The feet are heavily feathered and remain hidden from view. The Great Gray Owl is a ponderous flier, does not often move more than short distances between perches and seldom glides. They fly close to the ground, usually less than 6 meters (20 feet) up, except when flying to a nest.

The Great Gray Owl thermo-regulates by roosting in dense cover. When hot, a Great Gray Owl will pant and droop its wings to expose an unfeathered area (apterid) under the wing.

Photo Copyright © Ann Cook

The Grey Hawk, known also as the Mexican Goshawk and the Shining Buzzard-hawk is to be found in the tropics and sub-tropics from south-western United States into South America as far south as about Rio de Janeiro . It is not present in heavily forested areas.
Individuals in the most northerly part of the range are migratory.
The adult male is ash grey above - paler on the crown, and darker on the tail and the ends of the primaries. The upper-tail coverts and secondaries are tipped with white. The tail has a conspicuous white bar, another partial one nearer its base and a narrow white tip. The underside is generally deep grey, paler on the throat and thighs. It is finely barred throughout with dull white. The underside of the wings are white with a little grey barring. The eyes are dark brown in the northernmost part of the range, varying to yellow in the most southerly part. The bill is bluish black, the cere and legs yellow. The female is darker above, and her barring is a little coarser.
The immature is blackish brown above, mottled with white and buff. Its tail is dark brown with several narrow darker bars and a broad one at the end, with a narrow white tip. Below it is dull white. Its throat has a dark central stripe and black moustache bars. Its breast is streaked with dark brown and its belly and thighs have brown spots. Its eyes are brown, its cere and legs darker than in the adult. The tail is decidedly longer than in the adult. The adult plumage is acquired in the first moult, when the bird is about a year old.

The Harris' hawk is a medium-sized, tropical or semitropical hawk, widely distributed from the US-Mexico border south to Chile and Argentina .
It is one of the most remarkable birds of prey, because it has a unique behavior pattern. These birds hunt in family groups, in much the same way as wolves hunt in packs. Each group consists of a pair, with a dominant female, and several helpers. When they sight their prey from the air, they land on the ground and take turns to scare the prey animal until it darts out from its hiding place and is captured by another member of the hunting pack. This seems to be an adaptation to flush out their prey from beneath the thorny habitats of mesquite, saguaro and semi-arid woodland without causing damage to the birds' plumage. 


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